After years of stagnation and dispute over provisions, a deal was finally reached on free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama which President Obama sent to Congress, urging them to pass the measure "without delay." The agreements are the largest since NAFTA, and expected to boost annual US exports by more than $12 billion. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the agreements will save 380,000 jobs.
The bill includes provisions extending unemployment benefits through 2013 for those who lost jobs because of foreign competition, reports Businessweek. “We’ve worked hard to strengthen these agreements to get the best possible deal for American workers and businesses,” said Obama.
Some Democratic lawmakers are not so enthusiastic however, and have joined major labor unions in opposing the trade agreements. Labor leaders argue the agreements will lead to further loss in US manufacturing jobs, and will demonstrate against the measure. House Democrats said they plan to build “the broadest coalition possible” in opposing the agreements. Hearings on the bills are expected as early as Oct. 5.
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